Security agencies in Kenya have been placed on high alert after a truck bomb exploded in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing 276 people.
“Officers are on high alert. The surveillance has been increased. We have always been and therefore cannot drop our guard now.
“We have activated our systems because they (terrorists) carry out an attack in one area they tend to do it as a pattern, by attacking elsewhere,” Police spokesman George Kinoti said.
The Somali Government said 300 other people were injured during the Saturday blast.
“Somalia Federal Government confirmed that 276 people were killed in the blast… and 300 others wounded people were admitted at the different hospitals in Mogadishu,” the country’s ministry of information said.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed condemned the attack, saying:
“Kenya strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu in which over 200 lives were lost and scores injured.
Evil is self-defeating and this wanton destruction of lives only hardens our collective resolve to rout out Al-Shabaab.
We join the rest of the world in praying for the quick and full recovery of the injured.
We express our sympathies to the Federal Government of Somalia and those who lost their loved ones.
We deeply regret the loss of innocent lives and the needless pain and suffering inflicted on those who were injured.”
The attack is the “deadliest ever” to hit war-torn Somalia and the figure was a huge jump from an initial police estimate of 20 dead in the hours after the deadly explosion ripped through the Somali capital, causing scenes of carnage and widespread devastation.
Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP that many of the victims were “burned beyond recognition” in what he described as “the deadliest attack ever”.
Rescuers worked through the night trying to pull bodies from the rubble after the truck bomb exploded outside the Safari Hotel on a busy road junction, knocking down buildings and leaving many vehicles in flames.
“This is the most painful tragedy I can remember,” the deputy speaker of the Somali Senate Abshir Ahmed said in a Facebook post after visiting the Medina hospital where many of the victims were being treated.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a terrorist group aligned with Al-Qaeda, has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.
Saturday’s blast was also condemned by the US, Britain, Canada, France, Turkey and the African Union.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara was sending planes “with medical supplies”, adding that the wounded would be flown to Turkey and treated there.
The country is a leading donor and investor in Somalia.
Mogadishu’s mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed also visited those wounded in the blast and said the horror of the attack was “unspeakable”.
“There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognise them.”
Hundreds of people, chanting anti-violence slogans and wearing red or white bandanas around their heads in a show of grief, took to the streets of Mogadishu to condemn the attack.
“We have seen what the terrorists can mercilessly do by shedding the blood of innocent civilians,” Mr Mohamed told the protesters after they ended their march at a square in southern Mogadishu.
“We need to stand united against them.”
Activist Abukar Sheik added: “There is no house in which people are not crying today.”
At least 137 were killed in twin blasts in Mogadishu.